Indoor Air Pollution
“Indoor Air Pollution is the one risk that you can do something
about.” – United States EPA
I. Intro to Air Pollution
A. In developing countries, the indoor burning of wood, charcoal, dung, crop residues, and coal in open fires or poorly ventilated
stoves exposes people to dangerous levels of _______________________________
B. According to the WHO, “indoor air pollution is, for poor people, the world’s most serious air pollution problem.”
C. Indoor air pollution is also a serious problem for people in developing countries. You often inhale more pollutants indoors than
you would outdoors. Indoor air pollution usually poses a much greater threat to human health than outdoor air pollution.
D. Since 1990, the EPA has placed indoor air pollution at the top of the list of _________________________
E. According to the EPA, the four most dangerous indoor air pollutants are ____________________________
F. Other indoor air pollutants that cause problems are asbestos, carbon monoxide, lead, biological particles (bacteria, mold, dust
mites), and VOCs.
II. Specific pollutants
A. Specific pollutants are found in different aged buildings – lead and asbestos are generally only found in older buildings, while
formaldehyde and VOCs tend to be found at high levels in ________________________________or buildings with new flooring
or cabinets. Houses with wood burning stoves tend to have issues with carbon monoxide and particulates.
B. Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is produced from combustion of tobacco.
1) Health problems include cancer, respiratory problems, emphysema, and ear infections in children exposed to secondary smoke.
C. Formaldehyde is found in furniture stuffing, particle board, new furniture, plywood, and carpeting.
1) It is a severe irritant of eyes, nose, and lungs, causes lung cancer, nausea and dizziness, and impaired breathing.
D. Radon: Radon-222 is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas produced from radioactive decay of uranium-238 in rocks and soils.
This isotope is much more concentrated in phosphate, granite, and shale. Radon gas seeps up from the ground through cracks in
E. Lead and Asbestos – lead is found in paint manufactured before 1978, and asbestos is found in insulation, ceiling tiles, and
spray-on fire retardant in buildings built before the 1980s.
1) Asbestos causes lung cancer and respiratory issues, and AIRBORNE lead particulates cause impaired mental and physical
F. Biologicals such as dust mites, mold, and mildew are found throughout the house and aggravate allergies and can cause asthma.
Mold spores are the single greatest cause of allergic reactions to indoor air.
1) Removal of mold, carefully controlling humidity levels, and maintaining air conditioners all help with biologicals.
G. VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are found in paints, solvents, varnishes, cleaning products, carpets, drapes, and clothing.
1) VOCs are a respiratory irritant, and are thought to depress the immune system and are listed as a probable carcinogen.
III. Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)
A. A sick building is one in which many people report adverse health effects that they believe are from spending time in the
B. These adverse health effects must be persistent and reduce or disappear when building occupants go outside.
. EPA studies indicate that one in five commercial buildings in the U.S. is “sick,” exposing _____________________________
D. Sick building syndrome is related to indoor air pollution, and symptoms are corresponding to effects of air pollution.
E. Symptoms of SBS, when reported in multiple people, include: Coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath, nausea, burning eyes,
chronic fatigue, sore throats, respiratory infections, ear infections, flu-like symptoms,